THE English Premier League entertainment is set for a highly anticipated return where the remaining nine rounds of matches will all be squeezed into five weeks between June 17 and July 25 and while so much focus will be on Liverpool coasting to their first title in 30 years, for Zimbabwe footballs enthusiasts, the attention will be on Marvelous Nakamba who will be trying to save his career in probably the best league in the world.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Nakamba’s Aston Villa sit 19th on the 20-team table, two rungs below the safety zone having played a game less than most of their survival rivals.
The Warriors midfielder is staring at the grim prospect of dropping out of the lucrative league after just one season after joining from Club Brugge at the beginning of the current term.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Villa were on a free-fall, having lost their last four matches and managing just one win in five matches and they are now deep into the relegation waters.
Their form saw them sink closer to the basement side Norwich, who are four points adrift of Villa.
England’s Project Restart gathered more momentum this week, with teams engaging in contact training for the first time since March, while they have also been given the greenlight to organise friendly matches ahead of the June 17 restart.
For Zimbabweans, the 2019-20 season has been all about Liverpool’s amazing form, which has seen them open a 25-point gap over their nearest rivals with nine matches to go, as well as watching Nakamba raise the flag the country’s flag high in the most watched league in the world.
The Merseyside giants have dropped just four points so far this season with a draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United and their shocking defeat to Watford away from home.
Nakamba has generally fared well for the Birmingham-based side, where he has been playing regularly, having made 21 appearances and the Villa matches are some of the most watched by the local fans.
But his career in England’s big time faces a defining five weeks, as the Premier League enters into a crash programme to complete the remaining matches and decide champions, Uefa Champions League and Europa League spots as well as the three teams that will go down to the second-tier league.
Vultures from other leagues, Trazbonspor in particular, are already circling above the Villa dressing room, hoping to pick up the pieces if the season ends in the disappointment of relegation.
The Turkish clubs have since admitted that they are monitoring the Villa situation, where if the Dean Smith-managed side gets relegated, they will be coming in to try and sign Nakamba.
They know that Villa would have to shave off its wage bill if they are to play in Championship next season and Nakamba on US$66 000 a week is one of the top earners at the club.
Trazbonspor club president Ahmet Agaoglu was quoted in Turkish media last April confirming interests in Nakamba’s services.
“We are following England. It is more economically reasonable to get players from the teams falling from the league here,” he said.
Nakamba and his Zimbabwean fans would not want to be thinking about Turkey at the moment, never mind them having a decent league.
But the 26-year-old midfielder would be the first to acknowledge that they face a tough fight if they are to stay afloat.
They play their first match, post-COVID-19 break, against a tough Sheffield United, who are chasing a European spot, at home before they host Chelsea three days later.
In their last 10 matches, they face six sides from the top half of the table and they have been poor against sides in the top 10 so far.
They have only picked up two points (Manchester United and Burnley) against sides in the top half of the table.
All their seven wins have come against bottom half teams, with five of their victories coming at home, while two were away.
Some of their tough matches include an away trip to Anfield against the champions-designate on July 4, but they will be hoping that by then, Liverpool, who require just two wins to seal the title, would have reached their target.
Villa also have a home match against Champions league-chasing Manchester United, Arsenal and Wolves also at home as well as an away match against relegation rivals West ham United.
Aston Villa remaining matches
Sheffield United (H), Chelsea (H), Newcastle (A), Wolves (H), Liverpool (A), Manchester United (H), Crystal Palace (H), Everton (A), Arsenal (H), West Ham (A)
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